"If I am you and you are me, I am not me and you are not you"
- The Kotzker Rebbe.
This was one of our most independent years ever. Completely independently, we decided to welcome the vice president of the United States with an announcement of new construction in East Jerusalem; the deputy foreign minister independently humiliated the Turkish ambassador; the foreign minister independently boycotted the president of Brazil; the Knesset independently sabotaged relations with the European Union via legislation that would limit its donations to human rights groups; the government independently decided to bait the Muslim world by declaring holy sites in the occupied territories as "heritage sites."
The extremists who gathered on Massada also decided independently, some 2,000 years ago, to commit suicide. Since then, the term "independence" has acquired a meaning more complex than an act or decision by an individual or group that takes no account of others or of the environment. In modern Western society, independence is not considered the freedom to do whatever one wishes. Responsible governments, like adult people, must find the right balance between the particular and the global. The policies they shape reflect a compromise between the interests of their own community and the interests of the international and regional community.
Sixty-two years after Israel declared independence, its right-wing government is entitled to decide that the time has come to annex Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and the Jordan Valley - just as the Labor government did 43 years ago, when it decided to annex a sizable territory to Jerusalem. This year, too, Israeli citizens are entitled to celebrate Jerusalem Day in the only capital in the world that hosts not a single embassy. Benjamin Netanyahu can even propose that U.S. President Barack Obama append his list of questions to the Wye Agreement, the road map and the Annapolis Declaration. After all, Israel is an independent country.
The winning phrase of the 62nd year of Israel's independence is undoubtedly the angry response Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon would make to reports that the Obama administration intends to present its own peace plan. The man who was Israel's ambassador to Washington said that by doing so, the U.S. would become a "party to the conflict." In other words, today, the U.S. is not a "party to the conflict." The implication is that in order to respect Israeli independence, the American administration is required to forever put up with the Israeli occupation and ignore the settlements. The U.S. is a "party to the conflict" only when Israel requires an airlift of arms, sanctions against Iran or a veto of unpleasant resolutions at the United Nations.
Shortly after the previous independence day, it seemed that Netanyahu had struck the right balance on how the conflict should be resolved between the particularist worldview he shares with most members of his government and the positions of the world's major powers. Moreover, it appeared that the support he expressed in his speech at Bar-Ilan University for a solution of two states for two peoples reflected recognition of the fact that Israel's independence will not be complete until the Palestinians receive their own independent state.
Instead, the Netanyahu government has implemented the views of the majority of independent Israel's Knesset, which supports the policy of settlements in the West Bank and deepening the Jewish hold on East Jerusalem. To fend off pressure from abroad, Netanyahu has once again transformed the Jewish Diaspora into a defensive army against the might of the nations of the world. The leader of "independent" Israel has transformed Jewish activists into "parties to the conflict" between his government and the American administration (we, of course, are allowed to meddle in American politics).
In its 62nd year of independence, as it has every year since March 2002, Israel is taking advantage of its independence to turn its back on the Arab Peace Initiative. This year, too, it is ignoring a plan that offers it normalization in return for a withdrawal from the occupied territories and a just and agreed resolution to the problem of the Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.
What would the fathers of Zionism have said had the Arabs (with the support of all Muslim countries) presented them with such a proposal 62 years ago? And what significance do the wonderful words of the Declaration of Independence have today: "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East."
It is true that we are entitled to replace the hand extended in peace and neighborliness with a hand that digs the foundations for more outposts and more graves. After all, we are independent. Happy Holiday.
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